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Legalized Extortion

The reason you never hear about HP in discussions like this is because they bought Palm. Somewhere in some dark corner of their organization they have a patent for “a computer with a touch screen display that fits in your pocket”, and nobody’s going even going to think of picking a fight with somebody who rolls that heavy. HP is the sole owner of the IP equivalent of the hydrogen bomb, basically.

Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola, says:

I would bring up IP as a very important for differentiation (among Android vendors). We have a very large IP portfolio, and I think in the long term, as things settle down, you will see a meaningful difference in positions of many different Android players. Both, in terms of avoidance of royalties, as well as potentially being able to collect royalties. And that will make a big difference to people who have very strong IP positions.

Translated from protection-racket-thug to English, that roughly means “We are no longer able to compete on the merits, or even just ship a phone worth buying, but that doesn’t matter, because we intend to sue other companies in order to make money.” It’s noteworthy that Microsoft is already doing this exact thing to extort handset makers, and Apple is doing this exact thing to prevent Samsung’s phones from appearing on the market at all. But there’s no reason that anyone with an IP portfolio can’t get in on this action.

This isn’t fostering innovation. It’s legalized extortion and everyone with boots on that piece of ground knows it.

3 Comments | Skip to comment form

  1. Ted Mielczarek

    Mighty prescient of you in light of the Google acquisition.

  2. Darcy

    I disagree. The threat of being sued is a good reason to come up with your own new, completely different solution that no rival can convincingly claim looks like something you ripped off from them. Aka “innovation”.

  3. mhoye

    The difficulty is that it’s now basically impossible, in the computer programming and engineering fields, to build a thing of any complexity without infringing dozens or hundreds of patents. The field isn’t very old, so even the most basic functionalities and techniques are still covered by patents, often owned by people who produce nothing themselves except patent lawsuits.